FIFA's hijab ban is prejudice, insists Prince Ali
Friday, 02 March 2012
March 2 - Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein (pictured), the Jordanian FIFA powerbroker driving the global campaign to lift the ban on women footballers wearing the hijab, or Islamic headscarf, during matches says it would be a backward step if the game's lawmakers ignore his demands.
Prince Ali is hoping he has enough international support and weight of argument to convince the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to back his stance when they hold their annual meeting in Bagshot tomorrow.
"This is the biggest issue right now for many women across the world," the Prince, FIFA's youngest Executive Committee member, told a roundtable media briefing today ahead of the IFAB decision.
"I'd be very disappointed for the game if IFAB says no.
"It's an issue which will not go away.
"There would be lot of soul searching about what the priorities are in this sport.
"Everyone from the United Nations to the regional federations are supportive so I don't see what the problem is."
The hijab ban was imposed in 2007 but Prince Ali will be making a detailed presentation to IFAB members, demonstrating ultra-safe new velcro designs that cannot in any way be considered dangerous and identifying key supporters from across all regions, not just Asia.
The fact that other sports like track and field and rugby allow the hijab to be worn proves, he says, that football should live with the times.
"This is not an issue of religious symbolism, it is simple a case of cultural modesty," Prince Ali insisted.
Whether he manages to get that message across is questionable, however.
The IFAB rarely, if ever, reverses its decisions and could take the view, however short-sighted, that allowing the hijab to be worn will open the floodgates to other headwear and that the issue therefore needs further study.
Prince Ali (pictured right with FIFA President Sepp Blatter) does not buy that argument and hopes the game's custodians – comprising FIFA and four national British associations – will take a progressive, immediate decision rather than go for a postponement.
"To say that you are not allowed to participate for a reason that makes no sense is unfair; that's prejudice and it has to be dealt with," he said.
"I hope there is a positive decision.
"My only concern is there may be an attempt to delay but a year is a long time for a player to know what their future is.
"I have to convince the officials to make the right decision.
"This is a piece of cloth that is worn on the head and is simply an issue of modesty.
"If you look at the psychological impact on some women players right now, when they are told that for some reason they cannot wear the headscarf, it's a huge blow.
"This is a very serious issue.
"We have to make the officials who make these decisions fully aware of the consequences of their actions."
March 2012: UN urge FIFA to scrap hijab ban to "challenge gender stereotypes"
February 2012: FIFPro backs FIFA vice-president's pro-hijab campaign
February 2012: Hijab ban is limiting participation, insists FIFA's Prince Ali
January 2012: Asian Football Confederation supports campaign to lift hijab ban on female football players
January 2012: Exclusive - "FIFA has to give same opportunities to everyone" says Prince Ali in hijab row